Becoming suicide alert 

By Jaina Kelly, Staff Writer

One of the hardest tragedies to come to terms with is suicide. We are often taken aback. What could we have said or done to help this person? I was a just baby when one of my aunts committed suicide. To this day, it’s the only event that will bring tears to my dad’s eyes – he drove for hours and hours to identify his sister’s body after her death. So how can those who have succumbed to suicide translate their struggles to help others who may be currently struggling with suicidal thoughts? I’m sure that everybody has known someone touched by this issue. While we often feel powerless, it’s true that we can make a difference to prevent future suicides from happening. One of the methods that anybody can add to their metaphorical toolkit is “SafeTALK,” a training session intended to inform people to detect suicidal admissions and to providing adequate resources for someone to seek help.

On Valentine’s Day, a SafeTALK training session was held in one of the classrooms at the Lakehead University Orillia campus. While couples were out canoodling and eating chocolate, about ten students sat for two and a half hours learning about how to be proactive regarding suicide. We all had similar reasons for attending, some were there to boost their resume for social work, others simply wanted to know how to better support members of their community . Part of the training includes watching different pre-recorded scenarios in which people display subtle symptoms, hinting that they are considering suicide. While slightly cheesy, the scenarios do show that it’s easy to miss people’s cries for help when you have not taken the time to consider suicide as a possibility.

This seminar walks you through the actions that make up the “talk” in SafeTALK: Tell, Ask, Listen and Keep Safe:

1. Tell explains that someone who is considering suicide likely wants someone to know, but they may not explicitly admit it. They will probably be sending signals that rely on the perceptiveness of the other person. SafeTALK taught us that people who are suicidal might act out in inappropriate, angry, or offensive ways as a method of communicating their pain.

2. Ask explains that the topic of suicide needs to be addressed in plain terms. Once the person is in a safe space where they feel comfortable continuing the conversation, you  can ask whether they may be considering suicide. This question must include the word “suicide” in order for mutual understanding to be crystal clear.

3. Listen refers to a continued conversation where you can act as the middle ground between the person and the resources they may need. As a support system, you must listen to them accurately and offer them support while they decide on a counseling option or other professional help option that suits them best.

4. Keep Safe refers to keeping this individual safe from potential self-harm. While a SafeTALK certified person is able to provide a temporary moment of safety and understanding, it is not their responsibility to behave as a substitute for a professional. Keep safe means that while this at-risk person is in the process of finding a trustworthy source of further support, you are sticking by them and ensuring they will not be alone.

SafeTALK showed me that most people who are suicidal do not actually want to die. They feel trapped in their circumstances and feel powerless to change them. They need people to support them, fully understand their pain, and they need to see a way out. I highly suggest that, if available, Lakehead students participate in this training. It is free of charge and offers  certification that can be posted on a resume. SafeTALK acts as a solid point of reference for anyone who wants to support their community in more meaningful ways.

It’s simple, it’s effective, and it could save someone’s life.